Rangers racked up only causes for concern in this Scottish Cup fifth-round tie. While Dundee United were accumulating goals, their opponents were forced to confront the reality of their decline.
Rangers retain a significant reputation in Scottish football, but they are stationed now in the Third Division and they performed like a team of that status. The dismissals of Kal Naismith and Ian Black late on had no effect on the scoreline, but emphasised the visitors' sense of regret nonetheless.
Rangers made this a daunting occasion for themselves. The expectation was that the game would be nerve-racking because Rangers fans – with the club's backing – were boycotting Tannadice. That protest was against the prominence of United supporters in the campaign to deny Rangers a Premier League place last season, as well as lingering resentment against United's chairman, Stephen Thompson, who four years ago charged Rangers fans twice for a game that was abandoned.
Yet it was the flaws in the visitors' defending that turned this into a harrowing event. No Rangers player had even touched the ball before their goalkeeper, Neil Alexander, landed a forlorn hand on it but still failed to keep Johnny Russell's shot out of the net. Only 15 seconds had elapsed.
"We were poor," said Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager. "Our bigger SPL players should have done better. We missed our fans, but that wasn't a factor in the final result."
There were still taunts to endure, not least the United fans singing: "Are you Rangers in disguise?" and the 365 away fans who did turn up were mostly sombre.
Six members of Rangers' starting line-up were established Scottish Premier League players, but the defending was inept, with Jon Daly and Russell granted almost free rein to expose those frailties. It was the former who scored United's second, when he was left unmarked to head midfielder Willo Flood's free-kick into the net.
Rangers were more assertive after the interval, but were unable to trouble Radoslaw Cierzniak, United's goalkeeper. And at the other end there was no resistance in the centre of defence when Daly played Russell in again and he tucked the ball beyond the reach of Alexander.
"People can be caught up in the occasion," said Jackie McNamara, the United manager. "But we handled it well. Our quality made the difference."
Dundee United (4-2-3-1) Cierzniak; Watson, Dillon, Gunning, Douglas; Flood, Rankin; Russell, Armstrong (Ryan, 67), Mackay-Steven (Gardyne, 67); Daly.
Rangers (4-4-1-1) Alexander; Faure, Perry (Hegarty, 41), Emilson, Wallace; Little, Hutton, Black, Templeton; Shiels (McKay, 72); Sandaza (Naismith, 46).
Referee Euan Norris.
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